The tipsy drink!

I am on a WhatsApp group in which all the members are engineers that too with more than 45 years of experience. Most of them have retired. But the fun part is a couple of them who are active in business have the maximum time available with them to contribute to the group. Their favourite subject being liquor! Why would professional, educated and almost retired persons be interested in talking about alcohol all the time? I call this irrational thinking.  

What is the origin of alcoholic drinks?  As mentioned in Wikipedia, “discovery of late Stone Age jugs suggests that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period (Cir. 10,000 BC). Many animals also consume alcohol when they get a chance and are affected in much the same way as humans, But humans are the only species known to produce alcoholic drinks intentionally.” Humans are the species who make alcoholic drinks for their own consumption. There are three broad classes of drinks beers, wines and spirits!  

Alcohol is consumed socially in many cultures. An alcoholic drink contains ethanol. Alcohol is manufactured by fermentation of grains, fruits, or other sources of sugar. Alcohol consumption has an essential social role in many cultures. In many cultures, alcohol is consumed by both women and men. Nations have laws controlling the production, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol consumption is legal beyond a certain age in most nations. Many countries have tried to ban alcohol consumption but have miserably failed.  

Alcoholic drink is an addictive drink. Taken in small quantities, it makes a person euphoric, but in larger quantities they are depressants. In many countries, wines are consumed with food, but spirits are consumed before the meal. After meal brandies and cigars are also part of the of the culture. 

Just for fun, I will share with you my alcohol experiments. When I was studying engineering, I used to live in hostels. At the end of any term, there would be a “Wet Party”; we friends used to meet and take alcohol. (It was an open secret but an illegal act) In those days, I never drank alcohol and had only one more friend to give me company. After drinks, there would be a procession to go out for dinner; friends used to be in the state of, a bit drunk to thoroughly drunk. One of us would be in the front and the other at the back to control the band. The surprising part was that the friends used to listen to us. This continued for a few years, and later we could get a friend’s house for the parties and were not required to go out for dinner. Two of our friends would always get drunk, vomit, and the story continued.  

After I started working, I tasted my first drink, a whiskey; I never liked alcohol. Later I switched to Vodka for a different reason. I rarely drank it, poured it away and would get a Sprite. Nobody noticed. I used to take a couple of government inspectors for lunch; as long as they got their quota of beer, they did not bother what I drank. One of my colleagues was a chain smoker and used to drink a lot during office parties. His wife and Jaya were colleagues. His wife would tell Jaya that her husband was the most humble man in the world. She would tell Jaya, “He never drinks and smokes!” I knew that love was blind, but I never knew that love killed your sense of smell. 

Once I was in Germany in the dead of winter. We went to our hosts’ home; they owned a winery too! The lady was charming, and she gave us so many small shots to test, I almost got drunk with wine. Luckily, as soon as I stepped out of their home, the biting cold hit me, and I was normal in a minute. Now, I take wine, once in a while, especially if I am in foreign countries. But alcohol never brought irrational behaviour in me. I had a close friend who loved his drink, but never have I seen him getting even close to being drunk!

I will share with you some amusing anecdotes and information about alcoholic beverages. How did the word Cocktail come in use? People have been mixing any ingredient in hard liquor for a long time. But the name cocktail has come up in the last two hundred years. 


During the early 17th century, a horse, with a docked (cut tail) tail, was said to have a “cocktail.” Thoroughbreds did not have docked tails.  When a regular horse was entered into a race, its cocktail was observed – and became a term synonymous with an adulterated horse. There is a tradition to drink alcohol during horse races; the word “cocktail” was soon used to mean an adulterated spirit, alcohol mixed with something. Well, I thought a cocktail was something fancy. Nowadays we get mocktails also. These are the drinks like cocktails but do not contain hard liquor. Looks like businessmen are exploiting the fancy names for the purpose of business.  Mocktails are also expensive!  


The word booze has its origin with the meaning “alcoholic drink”. Initially, it was spelt as “bouse”. The word booze is said to have a Germanic origin, but there is still a doubt about its real origin! Three words from which the word booze has come are “bausen” in German, Dutch word is “busen”, and the old Dutch word was “buise”. The last word means drinking vessel.  The majority think that the word from booze originated is “busen”. 


Toasting has some believable and some questionable origins. Two people clinked their glasses in such a way that their drinks got mixed. This ensured that you were not being poisoned. Another story that comes out is that the wines in olden days were not of good quality, they were acidic. A toast was physically put inside the wine. This toast would absorb the acid from the wine and improve the quality of the wine. Toasting many people at a party is also used for drinking excessive alcohol without seeming to do it purposely. Toasting is just an excuse!  

Let me share with you a sad story. I had a friend who was a company secretary. We used to attend meetings and would share rooms. Once after a cocktail party, we came back to the guest house. He had consumed about five whiskeys. At the guest house, he asked me, “Pramod my doctor has told me to take a shot of brandy before sleeping. Take with me if you have crossed 35.” I was 36 then. He consumed the whole quarter bottle of brandy and ….. He slept through our meeting the next full day! Poor fellow ultimately died of alcoholism.

Coming back to the original discussion of how people nearing seventy remain so much interested in alcohol that they keep on discussing the subject on and on. Once some of my friends went out for dinner. Out of ten, eight drank alcohol, and all drank them in large quantities. Liking a drink is one thing but drinking alcohol in excess at the age of seventy is something different. At this age something can suddenly go wrong with the body and results can be devastating.

So let us give a toast to wise people who will switch to drink booze in moderate quantities! Remember, when you say, “I need that one shot of xxx every night,” (and take it) you are an Alcoholic!

Cheers! Bottoms up!









Which is the real Golden Age?

We always discuss the progress of the human race. We also take pride and talk about how progressive was the life in Egypt and Harappa thousands of years back. Considering the technology of those days and knowledge about worldly things, including science during those times, the human race at respective times was progressive compared to life five thousand years before that period. Ancient Egyptian civilisation was around 3100 BC, and the Harappan culture was between 2600 BC to 1500 BC. 

We sing paeans of those times and talk of golden age or era! But why is it called the Golden era? Why was it the Golden age? Compared to which times? If this life is compared with new stone age then, Yes, it was Golden age.  

Egyptian civilisation succeeded because they adapted to conditions and the vagaries of the Nile river. They handled the floods correctly and managed to have a good irrigation system. This helped them produce surplus crops that fed the dense population. Since resources were more than needs, exploitation of minerals and many other developments like joint construction projects were implemented. Of course, famous Pyramids were built in those times. Medicine, Architecture and civil engineering were developed sciences of those times. 

The evidence of the Harappan valley suggests that they had a highly developed city life. Many houses had wells and bathrooms as well as an elaborate underground drainage system. They had excellent writing skills and maybe military skills. But since their writing still cannot be deciphered, many things are vaguely known.  

Ok, but what is the point of writing all this. Let us compare the old civilisations with today’s times in a country like India. India has progressed by leaps and bounds in last 20 to 25 years and showing overall progress. World population in the late 18th century was close to a billion people. India’s today’s population is 1.2 billion. Even today India is not considered a developed country. Some parts of India are highly developed, and some have remained extremely backward. I don’t think we can call today’s Indian age as a golden age.  

But in the comparison of the golden age of ancient times, in today’s average times, we are way ahead of the “old” golden age. In those days it was almost impossible to overcome droughts or floods. Societies have vanished in floods, or large populations have died due to drought in those times. Diseases in those days would kill thousands of people. In today’s times also, we have floods and droughts, but the aftermaths are managed pretty well. A few years ago rainfall was deficient in Maharashtra. Government transported water from water excess regions of the state to the shortage regions by freight trains. Many such trains carried water over a period. The situation was brought under control till the next monsoon rains arrived. Droughts today are more of distribution issues. India cultivates vast amounts of food. Many times our problems are commercial, like framers not getting good rates, storage godowns issues, and distribution issues in general. Why was the old period then called golden age?  

Currently, I am reading a book by an Israeli author Yuval Noah Haran, called Homo Deus. The book talks of the Green Lawns as power centres. How can the lawns be power centres? The lawns came into vogue about 300 years back. In those times, only the nobility could afford such lawns. The lawns required land, people to maintain them, a lot of fresh water, fertilisers and so on. The lawns became cost centres, and there were no returns from them. The lawns gave the owners bragging rights. What is the significance of the lawn story?  

In the recent past human race is galloping towards newer discoveries, newer methods of doing things. The last twenty years are the peak of this activity, especially with the advent of the internet. In the olden days, life was very predictable. What would happen after 50 years? Except for a few floods, famines and a war or two, things would not change much; this situation existed until about three centuries back. Now it is impossible to predict where the world will move in the next 15 or 20 years. Everything has changed. The bragging rights for lawns continued for centuries; slowly lawns became possible in middle-class homes too! But now if you are lucky, the bragging rights for some new invention could be there only for ten years.  

Last year we had a significant flood in Kerala; the whole nation and part of the world came together to help Kerala come back to normal in a couple of months. Yes, there were losses of both material and human. But rebuilding is being done quickly. Nowadays, in India there are no famines; there may be shortages of a few things. It is a simple question of redistribution of that item to shortage zone. But we consider India as a moderately advanced nation. India’s agriculture and other products can feed the population of 1.2 billion; some of the items like grapes, sugar, flowers are even exported. Days of people dying in millions due to cholera or plague are gone. Today the epidemic is declared even if a few hundred are affected and controlled fast.  

In olden days, dying of loose motions and fever was very common. Even the kings and the queens used to die of such diseases. Today, even a worker with low income gets easily cured of such “simple” to handle ailments. Today, millions of people get tap water, most large cities have underground drainages, though millions live in such towns. Transportation of today’s time, communication of the current era are incomparable with those of the golden age. Classic examples of the progress of today’s times are how people live in areas where there is heavy snowfall; how people comfortably live in desert areas.

We study history and try to analyse what mistakes were made during that time. This helps us with a better tomorrow. But nobody can predict tomorrow, especially in today’s average times. I am calling Indian society as a moderately developed society compared to the rest of the world. But why historians keep on calling Egyptians and Harappan times as a golden era?  

To me, today’s times are golden times, till we move in a newer better era. But we will do well not to call any period as a golden era. If we think of some era as the ultimate thing, we take time in accepting modern and better technologies, processes and products. We still keep on talking about how the systems and technologies were better in olden days. By doing this, we make the error of accepting better stuff and delay its implementation. We keep on talking of Pushpak Viman whereas we still cannot make a quality aeroplane in India. We speak to progress in medicine in olden days, especially of Ayurveda. But there has been no research, and all new inventions are made in Allopathy. Things are going to change at a faster and faster pace. Let us accept them with an open mind and heart and make our life happier, more comfortable and maybe longer.  






Coping with Death!

Birth and Death are the two absolute truths in life, there is no other side to these events. The birth in any family brings joy, and death brings sadness. In the case of birth, it is expected to be a natural progression after marriage. But in certain couples giving birth to a child becomes a very complex event. But in the end, it is a joyful event.  

Any death is a sad, dreadful event. Humans expect everything to happen sequentially. Humans hope that the parents will die first then the children and then grandchildren and so on. As we know, life is not so simplistic. Deaths can happen in any which way and are pre-decided by destiny. Though we know that such a catastrophe can happen, nobody is ever prepared for the break in the death sequence. In fact, we are not ready to accept death. Death is a daily occurrence in life, we directly get involved in very few of them. In India, when a death occurs, the body is generally cremated. In many communities, children and women do not go the cremation ground. We tend to shield them from death. This lack of mental preparation makes it difficult to handle death. 


This morning, I received an email from a close friend of mine, about the sudden death of his 35-year-old niece. She died in her sleep. The reason was a heart attack. The family is devastated. I immediately called him, and we talked about life. Both he and I have gone through cancer treatment. Though the onset was not significant in both our cases, it was a sudden reminder sent by destiny to both of us. It was a wakeup call saying that we are not infallible. Both of us are nearing 70 and have generally lived a happy life. But this out of turn death has really shaken me. I had met his niece a couple of times, and I remember her as a lively person. How can such things happen? How her parents, siblings, husband and other close ones must be feeling? I am not really sure that in such deaths, how even the great healer time will help. 

Another event occurred a month and a half back, when a 42-year-old son of another close friend of mine, died of a heart attack. The son had a heart condition and was taking treatment under expert guidance. The therapy included some exercise. He was told to exercise in the hospital gym. While exercising he collapsed and died. People were around him, he was only 100 meters from the emergency room. He could not be taken there; he died before that.  

It can happen that if the child were 4 or 6 years old, others might understand the grief caused by death. Some parents might feel that life is unjust to them and will think that all the sense of Godly support is over glorified; it will not be a surprise if they challenge the spiritual beliefs. When an adult dies, the person is still a child for the parent, whatever the age. Outsiders may not understand the shock of such deaths on parents. In such cases, it can so happen that the sympathy and focus may shift to the spouse or the children of the person who died. People sometimes fail to realise that the bond between the child and the parent is powerful, whatever the age. In such a case, the parent cannot be deprived of the right to grieve.  


When an adult dies, the life of his/her parents becomes more complicated as the parents are already going through a series of problems. Parents may be able to understand at some stage after the death that love is stronger than death, though it cannot stop the death from happening. One thing is sure, love ensures that attempts made by death to separate people from love do not succeed. Death cannot take away memories. Maybe life is stronger than death.   


Each religion, each philosophy has thought processes which provide solace to humans who go through extreme events like the death of an adult child. How far these are successful, I am not really sure. Such incidents have their own vagaries. It can happen that parents may not be involved in funeral arrangements for different reasons. Parents may not be in conditions to travel. Parents’ relations and interactions with the child’s spouse and the grandchildren may change, sometimes permanently. It is possible that they may be required to grieve commonly, with the spouse of the child and their other relatives. Private grief at that time may not happen. As seniors, parents may have to support younger members in the family, by keeping their own pain aside. Things can be tough.  

Practical aspects will be dependent on whether the child was married or unmarried. In the case of an unmarried child, all the responsibility about banks, investments, properties, informing the employers will be with parents. The friends of the child will want to help, take it. Don’t forget that friends are also grieving and want to help. I am sure that the most challenging part will be how to handle the future. Every individual will do it differently, but a good idea will be to plan.  

When I write a blog, I try to come to a conclusion at the end of the blog. But this blog is not a blog, in the real sense. I have just written down thoughts as they came to my mind. I pray to HIM to give strength to the family and friends to somehow cope with such stressful events. I also pray to the almighty, that fewer families are required to face such catastrophes!






MeToo or IToo!


MeToo movement has caught everybody’s imagination, recently. We all know what MeToo is, but do you know what IToo is? IToo is an old movement followed by many experts who are “experts” without being experts! Expert is defined as a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.

The recent trend is, people join the Google Academy and become experts in any field they want. I will tell you how the thought about writing on this subject came in my mind. I have selected the topic IToo because there are people who market themselves as experts in specific fields. They come in touch with some subject because of their career and start calling themselves experts. They are always in contact with newspaper reporters, they cultivate people who write in newspapers and magazines. Over a period, experts are named scientist or senior scientist and so on. I am not sure, but after some time “experts” really start thinking that they are the real experts.

I heard an interesting story from a friend. We have our homegrown “experts” in Pune. One computer expert went to the bay area on a visit, and he was invited to speak, by a group of people predominantly from Pune. (He is not known outside Pune) During the speech, he asked a question, “How many of you are from Pune”? Many hands went up. He asked them, “Now that you have lived away from Pune, for many years, which three top things you remember about Pune.” The obvious replies were Chitale Mithai wale, (Sweets Shop) PNG Jewellers, and Vaishali restaurant. Vaishali is Pune’s iconic adda for more than 50 years. It is a joint which serves mainly south Indian food like Dosa, Idli. Any of our brethren coming from foreign countries must visit Vaishali at least once during the visit. Our expert, after coming back told his Rotarian friends that he was surprised to see the great value of Vaishali brand name! Now can a Pune person not knowing  about Vaishali brand be called a Pune person? Experts are supposed to know a few things about things outside their area of expertise. But not knowing Vaisahli…. Then he went and met the owner of Vaishali and told him that he wants to honour him on behalf of his Rotary club because of such achievement. The owner said, “I don’t have time for such functions.”  They honoured him at the restaurant itself!

Such stories are found everywhere. Generally, people are decent hence they don’t challenge the pseudo’s about the knowledge. But why people want to be called an expert when they are not? I would not like to call myself an expert in anything because I am not! Why do you want to be known as, what you are not?

I found this interesting table which shows traits of pseudos in the field of science.


Another field, where there are many self-professed experts, is diets! There are many dietary experts in this profession; their number is going up because of WA and FB. People will share before and after photos, write stories about the path they have followed. My meagre knowledge on the subject tells me a simple method. The human body is designed in such a way that human health depends on what we eat and what we spend in terms of calories. When there is a mismatch, either you lose weight, or you gain weight. Ok, it is not as simple as I have written. There are many other factors but generally what I have written is obvious. There are experts like Dixit, Bose, Tripathi, Divekar. The latest name I have been reading is Joshi. He is giving his theories, and according to him all other “experts” are a hoax or bogus. There is another group (in fact it is a company) which has created the “real expert” groups. They give you a book called “What Doctors do not know and understand” or some such name, to begin with. I thought that Doctors are the ones who study medicine, they study about our body, they generally know the basics. Some may become surgeons, others pathologists and so on. But I feel that they would know more than the “experts”, about our bodies in general.

There has been another group of experts. People from this group are generally from art, cinema etc. As being the members of such a visible group, they think that they are experts in the field of human freedom, censorship etc. They publicly speak like socialists or communists! They treat anybody and everybody from the government as a pariah. These experts don’t mind using government support for foreign jaunts to attend festivals. They do not remember getting land or homes from the government at a meagre price or maybe free. But when it suits them, they suddenly start attacking the government. Recently, an eminent personality from Pune was invited for a talk about an artist and his paintings. This gentleman started talking about how the government is secretly forcing censorship on the art groups, the selection of venues and so on. The organisers had called him to talk about the artist. The committee chief stood up while our friend was bombarding the government. The chief suggested, “We are meeting here to listen to you speak about an artist and your equation with the artist. So please stick to the main subject.” The gentleman got upset and said, “If I have no freedom to talk what I want, why did you call me?” The answer was simple he was told. “Sir, we have called you to talk about the artist and the function is not about government policies. You are free to talk about these policies on the right forum!” He is giving interviews and blaming the organisers for their censorship and high handedness.

There is a saying in Sanskrit, “येन केन प्रकारेण प्रसिध्द पुरुषो भवेत ”! This means that try and remain in public eye by hook or by crook! These “experts” become very much addicted to remaining in the public domain. They try and get some business or work out of their showmanship, but at some stage, their shallow knowledge gets exposed. Their changing the tune to suit the situation is proven many times. They do it only for their own benefit. Self comes before everything else.

Let me share with you an anecdote. In the early days of computers a personal computer was the norm. An “expert” had bought five computers. Someone like me asked him about the multitasking capabilities of the systems. Without blinking an eyelid, he said, “Oh, I have hired separate computer operators for each shift!”

WA & FB revisited!

For records purpose, FB started in 2004 and WA began to operate five years later in 2009. First, long-distance voice communication began in 1876 in the form of the telephone; I will not go into a dispute about who was the real inventor of the phone. Cell phones started appearing in mass scale in ’90 s of the last century. FB & WA are the apps that are used on laptops but mainly on cell phones. The rapid proliferation of Cell phones and WA in India has taken the whole world by surprise. No doubt this was aided by the development of keyboard apps in all the Indian languages. You don’t need to know English to use these two apps.

I am writing about the apps with Indian reference. A significant change that has taken place is, the short-term and long-term migration of Indians all over the globe. From my 1971 batch from COEP, almost thirty plus people have migrated. This is about 8 %, and to me this is phenomenal. Currently, the migration percentage has increased briskly; short-term migration is seen more as people go to different countries on assignments.

As both these apps are in use for the last ten to fifteen years, the etiquettes, the pattern of usage are continually evolving. WA says that they have created the app so that people can be in touch using an instant messaging system. They have definitely achieved this and more. Who uses WA and why do they use it? WA is used as a personal messenger, used in groups, by a large number of Indians. These groups are friends’ groups, family groups, formal office groups, alumni groups and so on. In individual usage what people do is their lookout. But on groups rules and etiquettes are a must. In one of the groups, I am in, “forwards” are not allowed. Before WA, forward meant centre forward in Hockey or Football. In India, the forwarding of messages on the group reached a menacing proportion. It was clearly proven in one case that by forwarding messages quickly, some people got together swiftly and cornered a person and killed him because he looked suspicious. Later on, it was found that he was a development engineer working with Google at Bangalore. A few friends were roaming around on the weekend in a rural area near Bangalore. There have been many cases of hoax messages, some vicious rumours were spread using WA forwards.

Let me assure you, not all WA is terrible. Some fantastic things have come up with WA. WA has started a language of its own. It uses short forms and emojis. I am not much of an emoji user, I know about 😊- a wry smile, 🤣- LOL or laughing out loud with tears in eyes, 👍- thumbs up,🙏- in India this is interpreted as Namaste but, in a foreign culture, it is interpreted as High Five, ✈- travelling👏- clapping. I have said about different interpretation of emojis; different interpretation can happen in two different persons too!

I hear that WA is the secret tool for lovebirds, both official as well as unofficial (secret lovers?)! Following emojis must be the language of lovebirds, but my knowledge in this subject is inadequate. 💋👄- Indicating kisses?💘- Lovestruck? 💏-?😘- flying kiss 😍- excited with passion?😡- disturbed?👩‍❤‍👩-?💔- heart-broken💓- love! In today’s digital times, it is no surprise that the language has also become digitised. NTT Docomo of Japan was the first company to start emojis on cell phones. These were created because the Japanese have a fascination for pictures.

Surprising results of WA use are many, I will share a couple with you. We have an alumni group of 1971 COEP engineering students. Some of us lived in the hostels, and our hostel block was known as C Top! (C block top floor) During some trifle discussion on the group somebody wrote a statement, “Long Live C Top”! This one statement drew such a response to the group that a lot of messages started flowing. Many became nostalgic and discussion continued on and on! You will not believe it, but this discussion went on one and a half day! That period was drenched in nostalgia! So many things were remembered, so many stunts, card games were discussed. I copied those discussions and created a pdf document for sharing with all. The document had about 20 pages! It was declared literature masterpiece. I recently read that a couple, who got newly married, had saved all their WA exchanges. Imagine the total number of messages! They were forty-nine thousand! These were copied, and maybe they want to print it as a love story! Wow, that will be a fascinating real-life love story, warts and all!  People spend about 2 to 3 hrs using these apps every day; this was one of the reasons for this review.

I am sure that the emoji exchange between lovers must be fascinating. Especially when the emojis can be interpreted differently. A person may interpret differently when happy as against interpretation when angry. Again two lovers may have a different understanding of their sets of emojis!

Facebook is another fascinating story in the digital saga. Nowadays, people look eye to eye for the first time on Facebook! Their love story starts with a meeting on FB. It is no surprise that it continues with the same fervour in later life too! The buzz word used for such a show of affection between lovers or couples is PDA- public display of affection! The couples shout early morning on anniversaries and birthdays, to show how they love their partner! They want the whole world to know about it. Oldies like me and many others are surprised with this kind of public show. But for those who have started their love story on FB, they don’t care what you feel! FB has its advantages. FB has allowed me to find many long lost friends. FB has allowed me to be in touch with my school, through alumni group. It’s a diverse group with ex-students from early ’50 s of last century to the early part of the first decade of this century. Today morning, I had a pleasant surprise! Darshan Ruikar, my son’s friend sent me a friend request out of the blue! He lives in England for the last 25 years! FB helps me to publish my blogs to a broad audience.

Both the apps when used correctly are a great addition to our tools for communicating with others. Both the apps offer free audio or video calls and even group calls. But the downside is the use of WA by political parties in India. With elections fast approaching, the parties are trying to overcome the “at a time forward to five entities” lock applied by WA. WA has already warned the parties that if parties continue the misuse, they will lock such id’s. Governments world over are also having some discomfort due to abuse by people of the group facility.


My friend Baba Gupte on Video call on WA. Inset Jaya and me!

I will share with you the excellent usage of the apps. A coincidence is that both these incidents took place with someone in Australia. My friend Baba Gupte and I have been in touch about his holiday photos and my blogs, while he is in Australia. I thought why not call him; I video chatted with him, and we saw each other after a reasonably long time. Baba was very pleased and said, “ Pramod, perfect use of WA”!

Another incident was when I landed in Melbourne in 2015. We had gone to watch the cricket world cup final. After we landed at Melbourne airport, I read a news item on the net that Harsha Bhogale, the cricket commentator, enjoyed a Marathi play, “Katkon Trikon” in Sydney. I could not find the date reference. My old friend and actor Dr Mohan Agashe has played the lead role in the drama. So I quickly wrote to Mohan on FB messenger, “Hey Mohan are you in Australia or have you gone back? Jaya and I have just landed.” In a minute, I got a call on FB messenger. I was wondering who it could be. It was Mohan! We chatted and exchanged pleasantries, discussed cricket and the drama. He was to travel back to India that night.

How dramatically useful such apps are, pun not intended when appropriately used. I am sure as the apps, and people mature, the people will find more ways to use the apps to their advantage. We already have our weekly video calls with my son Sachin in Seattle and my Son in law Nikhil in Montreal! The apps keep people close, and for everybody, there is always something to look forward to! Maybe another long lost friend will get in touch with you; perhaps an old colleague will be found or even the old flame…. There are possibilities!

Frenzy or the Bench?

Work style and ethics have been changing over a period. Life was much more straightforward in historical times, until as late as before the industrial revolution. The revolution has started new products, new facilities, new systems, and modern ethics. Round the clock availability of electricity has changed everything upside down. In olden days, one was required to go home before it became too dark. Dependence on sunlight decided many things including lighting and heating needed in winter. We take for granted many things that support the workplace to run round the clock. Hence, we have started thinking that work must be done 365/24/7 by individuals.  Looks like time has come to take a relook at how we handle these changes.


From olden times there have been people who were very efficient and extremely sharp. There have been others like you and me. The super smart or go getter-gang can do things maybe 50% better or faster than others. They rise up in the hierarchy quickly. The people reporting to them are fascinated and tend to hold back. The downside of this is that “others” don’t grow because they never get the opportunity to develop; the boss has already done their work. There is a line of people for getting instructions from the boss. The boss never waits for others, the task is rarely delegated.  

A typical example is that of a Banyan Tree. When Indira Gandhi died, it was said that no other leaders developed under her. All were followers, they became good party workers. Indira Gandhi helped many people to survive, somewhat like the Banyan Tree provides shade to many. The earth beneath the tree does not allow anything else to grow. 

There are other fruit and flower trees like Banana Trees, Apple Tress, and some Berries, which start giving fruits and flowers in six months to one year. These trees have a minimal cycle of production, but they also help many birds and others like butterflies. This quick recycling creates a clump of such trees around. Unlike the Banyan tree, other trees are allowed to grow in their vicinity. 

The Banyan tree type of leaders create many followers or support people, but no leader is allowed to grow, there is no successor. This is because they do not enable the generation of leaders. But when the time to replace Banyan tree comes, there are no candidates.  

I have known of an organisation chief who observed a Banyan Tree type leader in her organisation. The leader was giving tremendous results, and his area showed promising results. But the boss realised that under him, no new leaders were coming up. Another aspect she observed was that the leader would always go home late, sometimes as late as 9 pm. He would drag all the group to work in this fashion. A couple of smart people resigned and went elsewhere. In exit interviews, they wrote that they could not handle the daily routine of 9 am to 9 pm work. People started depending too much on the leader and work would suffer in his absence. The leader forgot the principle that the efficiency of your department is really seen when you are absent. The owner felt that such a status was not good for the organisation as well to the individual.  

She called the leader for a one on one meeting and discussed everything threadbare. The leader was a nice man and agreed that the things on the home front were not so good for him; he had two kids. He was rarely present for any programs, celebrations or sometimes on weekly offs too! The boss explained to him the issues surrounding the methods of the leaders work. The boss told him about the possibility of burnout. Then a plan was chalked out. It took almost six months, but it worked out in the end. 

The master plan started with a delegation of work, but that was obvious and essential. Slowly the leader started reducing the time spent in the office. Well, he started going home on time, began delegating work. In the initial phase, he would check if his colleagues managed things well. One more thing the leader started was letting things go. He realised that some meetings were not very important; so he started excusing himself from such a meeting for 15 minutes, to attend another quick meeting. While doing this, a colleague would cover him in the original meeting.   With this tactic, he became available to more people;  colleagues also started going home on time.

One more important thing he started, was finding out from his colleagues about the area where they wanted his help. One of the colleagues told him that she wished for his suggestions on new projects. For running and routine projects, he started getting updates on email. Additional time was now available to him.  

The top boss also realised after his discussion with the leader that, the leaders never complain of overload. They just keep on accepting the load and doing it. But many times they just go away without any hint. Overload does affect lives is a fact of life. It is for the senior management to track the fast-rising stars and nurture them carefully so that they don’t burn out.  

Infosys had a great leader in Narayanmurthy, who had formally written to all employees against working more than regular stipulated hours. If you get a customer call late, the organisation should decide the cut-off point, beyond that time, the call should be handled on the next working day. Of course, there can be an exception. Exception handling should be a transparent and fast process.  

There is a downside to the frenzy. Service and Support organisations in the IT field started a new system. When taking up projects, they commit, say, 100 people. The contracts are made such that an additional 20% of people are held in reserve. These (20%) poor souls have no work. When projects are completed, sometimes it takes months for people to get the next project. Obviously, there is no work. There is a pay cut. But the employee must complete their xx hours every day in the office doing nothing! This is the other extreme of the frenzy I was talking about. Some people start getting used to the “Bench.” The most important aspect is that these are humans, individuals first and the company employees later! These matters need to be handled with sensitivity; I am aware that there are commercial matters involved. But for all companies human assets are vital.  

I read a case study of a lady, who was really a go-getter; she was smart and a bit abrasive. She was extremely efficient, so she started going up the ladder fast. She did everything very fast and every day at 4.30 pm would call a meeting of her team. She was ready with the “To Do” list for all. At the end of the session, she would update the lists, if required. She expected others to complete their work. But she would leave the office every day at 5 pm because she had finished her work. Senior management found it difficult to handle her. She now runs her own business.   

Superstars need to remember that they should not try and take over every project, learn to say no, extend work hours as not all can handle these hours, force ideas on others. At least once in a while, use someone else’s opinion though it may be second best.  

Superstars also should prioritise demand on their time, avoid overwork and burnout, and most important remember that there is a  team; you are not the only one!

A different view of looking at go-getters!

Hiding Place!

In many religions, Confession is the acknowledgement of one’s sins or wrongs. In Christianity, people make Confession formally. A person goes to the church and confesses to evil deeds and asks for penance. This arrangement between the person and the priest is like a lawyer-client relationship. It is an arrangement which is always upheld as sacrosanct.

But not every religion has this arrangement. But each human needs to share his/her thoughts with someone who is very close to them. All of us go through difficult times, good times and tough times. Some of these are so tough that our reactions to such situations can be, “Oh! I want to kill that fellow”! But killing someone is not an option. But what should one do if such feeling arises in mind? We need to vent out strong emotions, but this is possible only when you have intimacy with someone with whom you can share any details. At the same time, there is a need to get your feelings validated by someone. Why would you say that you want to kill someone? It is an extreme reaction to a situation. If you don’t forget this incident and keep brooding about it, you may explode (you might kill that person), or you will implode and go into depression.

In such situations, you need a “Hiding Place”! The concept of “Hiding Place” comes from Bible Psalm 32:7! (Correct me about psalms, I am reading details about them for the first time)

In the Bible the hiding place is HIM! God is the “Hiding Place” place because he is

  • Safe
  • Sure
  • Secret
  • Comfortable
  • Strong
  • Secure
  • Communing (means share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.)

I said that there is a need for “Hiding Place” in the real world too; the hiding place is you and me or any other person. A person can be a friend, brother, sister, or anybody really intimate with you. What is the importance of “Hiding Place” in our life? The incident mentioned above resulted in a feeling “I wanted to kill that person.” The “Hiding Place” is a sounding board who will listen to you, encourage you to open out and vent your steam. At the same time, “Hiding Place” or the person will not be judgemental and say that you were wrong to react this way. The person will listen to you and accept that you responded strongly. At the same time, the person will tell you the futility of such a reaction. By “hiding” we have achieved a few things. Your strong emotions were vented out, you are assured that your strong feelings, though not justified, get vetted. Once you have cooled down, you can discuss the real-life solution!

Some people are born with extreme emotions, some are cool, but most are in between. They are likely to lose their shirt in a situation! Some are lucky that they have a “hiding place”. You use someone as a sounding board, and if that person has most of the traits mentioned above, you are lucky. We read every day in newspapers stories about murders. The reasons for some of these murders are so flimsy that problems could have been quickly resolved by discussing with someone.

The root cause of unwelcome behaviour in society is unresolved conflicts from the minds of the people. Such unresolved disputes, and locked up feelings fo not find the healthy outlet and end result are simple problems getting converted to road rage events and sometimes into a murder.

In today’s times, we hear many stories about couples divorcing. If the reason for such divorces is listed out, then all the couples in the world should be divorced. Relations between pairs are very personal so unless they have access to a “hiding place”, issues are never going to be resolved. Recently I heard of a surprising way in which marital discord was resolved between a couple, who got married three years back. Both were lucky to have sensible friends. On husbands side, he had some females as his close friends, and they discussed the issues with him. They explained to him the women’s perspective of looking at things. At the same time on the wife’s side, some male friends discussed the issue and explained to her the male’s view of looking at problems. Of course, both were sensible persons. They later sorted out the problems amongst themselves, and now most of the discord related issues are overcome.

I read one beautiful story about a British movie The Wingless Bird! In this movie, a British Army Captain has come back on a short leave during the First World War. The war has affected his mind deeply. But he is trying to keep up the tradition of the British Family of being in the army. He is very uneasy and does not know what to do because he is very much troubled. Finally, he finds the courage to open out with his brother’s wife. He explains to her the whole situation on the war front. The dismembered bodies, rain, the trenches, the mud, fleece and the rats. To add to this the wrong orders from seniors lead to many unnecessary deaths. Of course, the seniors are safe, far away from the front!  After sharing these ghastly details, the Captain had a smile on his face. The situation on the front was not going to change, but he could unburden his thoughts. He thanked his brother’s wife that he could talk to her. She in return told him that she was delighted that he trusted her. The lady was the Captain’s Hiding Place!

Friends, I have simplistic solutions for everything as I very rarely react very strongly to a situation. I always think about the Utopian world. But let me assure you, it is not very difficult. Let us form a bank of “Hiding Places”! The newspapers have a section on agony aunt. As this correspondence is anonymous, it works like the confession box from the Churches. I am lucky to be a “Hiding Place” to many. Ultimately every individual has to solve his or her dilemma! A bit of shoulder to “cry on” always helps. People smoke, go to pubs sometimes when they are tense. Instead look for a “hiding place”. You have them around, there are many good people around, you need to locate them.

As usual, this is my simplistic solution, but it is worthwhile trying.